Once upon a time.” “And they lived happily ever after.” These familiar phrases are expected in childhood stories. But what makes a story that sells? What makes a story told by sellers effective in converting prospects?

Why does storytelling matter in sales?

There is a good deal of support for the claim that effective storytelling can improve selling. Good storytelling transports the listener, connects the topic to a larger truth, and evokes emotion that opens the possibility of change. An expert ability to craft and tell stories is one of the most crucial skills a Sales rep can have in their arsenal. But not everyone is a natural storyteller. Here are a few ideas that can help your stories resonate, especially with an uncommitted prospect.

Tips for creating stories that sell:

  1. Know the essential back story first. For a story to resonate with a prospect, it needs to be relatable, something close to what they’re experiencing. But that means a careful discovery conversation needs to happen before your story. From that discovery, you can learn the context that matters most—what are the obstacles they’re facing? What are their personal hopes for the situation? What is the challenge that provides emotional weight? Know this and it will point to the picture you must paint.
  2. Understand the kind of story your client needs to hear. Perhaps your prospect doesn’t know what’s causing them to act a certain way or see the danger inherent in their situation. You can help them see that. You could paint a picture bolstered by trends and data about others in a similar situation. Perhaps tell a story of likely impending implications from a larger, relevant trend. Or maybe paint the picture of a better future possible if they achieve their desired outcomes. What happens once they reach that ideal place? Be sure to connect into “feeling words” – how will this outcome feel to them? That’s where the emotional power is. For more on stories that sell, this post by Anthony Iannarino is particularly useful.
  3. Make it memorable. Use humor or unconventional approaches to make your story one that stands out. Think about the ads you’ve seen recently that stayed with you. What made them stick? Which Super Bowl ads do people talk about the day after? It’s often the funniest ones. Also, be on the lookout for a value-add educational approach. Sometimes a powerful or surprising statistic can resonate just as well as a hilarious punchline. And strive to develop a short theme line or phrase, like an earworm that repeats and reinforces your main ideas, staying with the prospect long after you’ve left the room.
  4. Make the stakes epic. The stakes in your story need to be high. Your prospect needs to be slaying a dragon. There needs to be significant pain or conflict, and you need to be the one helping your client overcome that obstacle. Make sure that your story has a beginning, a conflict needing a solution (i.e., your customer pain point), and a resolution they can envision.
  5. Go for the happy ending. After your conflict, show how with your product or service, the prospect is finally able to achieve the outcomes they want or need. Use examples of how others have done the same. Those desired outcomes and the benefits they drive are critical. If you want to tell the story of a better future, you absolutely must have a compelling and complete vision for the attractive place your prospect is dreaming of.

The takeaways

Stories are key to improving selling, and the composition of those stories matters. Making sure your stories have the elements included here will give you a decided advantage with your prospects. Isn’t it time to see the difference a purposeful and well-crafted story can make in your sales process?

Want to know more about selling with stories? Check out our Sales Messaging page here.